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Century Freeway Development : 1 Replacement Housing Project to Be Built, but Other Falls Through

April 24, 1986|GERALD FARIS | Times Staff Writer

HAWTHORNE — One of the Century Freeway housing replacement projects involved in a lengthy federal housing discrimination suit last year will be built, but a second one has fallen through, according to developers.

Work on Hawthorne Terrace, a 96-unit complex on Kornblum Avenue just south of El Segundo Boulevard, is expected to start within six months, said Greg Coxsom of Energy Recovery Engineering Inc. of Pasadena, which will build the project with developers Marvin Greer and Oliver Trigg. It will be ready for occupancy in about 15 months, Coxsom said.

Meanwhile, an official of Shapell Housing Inc. of Beverly Hills said the company has abandoned plans for a 32-unit building of replacement housing on Cerise Avenue near Rosecrans Avenue. Mark Maltzman, a Shapell vice president, said the company agreed to buy the land "a couple of years ago" but the owner sold to another party after city zoning actions and the federal lawsuit delayed construction. The new owner, Harry Jenkins of Redondo Beach, plans to build a conventional 32-unit apartment building.

Federal Judge Harry Pregerson in effect ordered the city to approve the two projects as freeway replacement housing after ruling last September that the city discriminated against minority and poor people when it used zoning regulations to block one project and to restrict another.

City Restrictions

In 1984, the City Council denied a lot split and zone change for the Kornblum project, and made the Cerise project ineligible for the state-funded housing program by imposing a 35% limit on the number of apartments that could be rented to low-income people. The housing was intended for predominantly minority residents of Hawthorne who are losing their homes to the Century Freeway.

The Center for Law in the Public Interest, which got the state housing program set up as part of a 1981 federal court agreement permitting construction of the freeway, sued Hawthorne in February, 1985.

The City Council adopted a resolution complying with the court order, but it also appealed Pregerson's ruling to a federal appeals court, arguing that its actions on the Kornblum and Cerise properties were based on planning and zoning concerns, and were not discriminatory. There has been no ruling on the appeal.

Escrow closed recently on the 4.5-acre Kornblum property. It was purchased for $2.3 million from the Satow family, which has run a nursery on the land for generations. The state Department of Housing and Community Development paid all but $50,000, which was paid by the developers.

$50,000 Paid for Plans

The new developers, who have been active in other Century Freeway housing and commercial development projects, recently took the Kornblum complex over from the original developer, Goldrich & Kest Inc. of Culver City. Coxsom said that company was paid $50,000 for its plans.

"Goldrich & Kest is involved in too many other developments," the company's director, Robert Hirsch, said in explaining the transfer. "The two years of delays have hurt us very badly and I just had to make a judgment on other projects that were more meaningful, where the results were more lucrative than we could see at Hawthorne Terrace."

Michael Houlemard, executive director of the Century Freeway Housing Program, said the transfer was approved by the state Housing and Community Development office, which has control over the freeway housing program. He said a change of developers is permitted under federal regulations and has occurred in other freeway projects.

However, attorney Richard R. Terzian, Hawthorne's special counsel in the Century Freeway case, said he will review the law and documents filed in the case to determine if the change in developers has a bearing on the case before the appeals court.

Immediate Need Claimed

Terzian said that when the housing case was being pressed in court last summer, Goldrich & Kest said the 96 units were needed immediately because people faced the loss of their homes to the freeway.

"Then they back out and we find that construction won't start for six months," he said. "I find this strange and disturbing."

Coxsom said the "basic design of the project will not change" from the Goldrich & Kest concept, which calls for 36 one-bedroom apartments, 36 with two bedrooms and 24 with three bedrooms. The complex will be on two parcels, one on each side of Kornblum Avenue.

The developers will build Hawthorne Terrace and then sell it to the state, Coxsom said. He said his group and the state have not negotiated a final selling price, conceding that it is possible but "not very probable" that a disagreement would scuttle the project.

300 Families Displaced

More than a year ago, the state freeway housing office said that up to 300 Hawthorne families would be displaced by the freeway project. In a telephone survey of 253 households in the freeway path last summer in connection with the federal lawsuit, 31% said they wanted to move into rental housing in the city, 27% said they probably would want to move there, and 36% said they would not. The remainder did not know.

Houlemard said that by the time the Kornblum project is ready for occupancy, most of these people will have been displaced. However, he said those who want to move into the building can be temporarily housed elsewhere until it is completed.

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